I need to apologize for the long, long gap in between posts and explain myself before I get to the actual review. You see, I’ve bought three games, and in all three cases, I bounced off of them hard before I could get anywhere close enough to write a review. I’m just about done with a book for review, but lately it seems like I only read at work during breaks. Otherwise, I can’t seem to make myself sit to read.
Because of the gap between posts, it annoys me to be making this a negative review, but it can’t be helped. Let me start by saying that I bought Psychonauts around six years back and found the controller support to be pretty bad. I tried playing with mouse and keyboard, but I had major issues with the camera controls, leading to me rage quitting very early into the game. Recently, I saw someone comment that the controller support had been improved, so I loaded it back up and started over. I almost wish I hadn’t.
I don’t have any nostalgia for this game, or for Double Fine. I’m coming at this as someone who’s heard endless praise for this title as one of the greats, and went in mostly flying blind. What I found was a mess that gathers all the worst habits of early 3D platforming and covers them in an oh-so-wacky wrapper. Continue reading
When I first got my Kindle tablet, and later my first Android phone, I imagined that I would have a new and near endless source of review material. In theory it’s a pool of free games so I can have a new review every week to fill in the gaps made by my lowered PC and PS4 game budget. (And by my frankly abysmal recent track record with reading books for review.)
It sounded good, in theory, but in reality I ended up deleting a lot of games within hours of starting them. Some were puzzle games that insisted on showing me what gems/candy/critters to match if I even hesitated for one second and gave no option to turn “idiot mode” off. Others built their platforms around watching ads for other games. (Some games have asked me to watch no less than ten ads per day just to pick up daily reward items that other games gave just for signing in.) If I delete something that fast, I can’t really review it, can I? No, that simply won’t do.
There are games that I didn’t delete, and I kept thinking to review them, except I didn’t want to recommend any of them. I’m playing them regularly, most certainly am getting something out of playing them, and don’t see a reason to quit. And yet, I hesitate to offer them out and say, “You should play these, too.”
I think it comes down to two reasons, which I will name and then illustrate with examples from each of the games that are still holding my attention even as they frustrate me with free mobile mechanics. For now, the reasons I hesitate to endorse these better examples of the free market are their shockingly high prices for cheap digital tat and their built-in methods of hindering progress just to drag out the whole experience. Continue reading
It’s funny that in my last blog post, I mentioned The Binding of Isaac for both being aggravating and entertaining. While searching for a new puzzle or card game to play in between shooters and more hardcore stuff like Dark Souls, I randomly ran across The Legend of Bum-Bo on sale on Steam. The description for it is a deck-building puzzle RPG, and a prequel to all the various flavors of Isaac. Having seen trailers and gameplay preview videos, I had some idea of what I was going into, but I had no clue how fast the gameplay loop would hook me. There’s still problems that bugged me, but this is for sure going to be one of my more positive reviews in a while.
Before getting into the details, I think a warning of sorts is fair. Edmund McMillen games all have a certain level of shit in them. I don’t mean a bad game element. I mean feces and urine are quite common in his stuff. If I ever interviewed Ed, one of my early questions would have to be “did you get trapped in a sewer while tripping on acid or shrooms?” This game is no exception, so if you find weaponized poo and pee offensive, Ed’s games are not for you. And that’s okay.
But to begin with, Bum-Bo’s game isn’t so much a direct prequel as it is a setting imagined by Isaac before his mother’s psychotic break with reality forced him into hiding. Each level is made inside a diorama with puppets dangling from strings or sticks, and pretty much every element is constructed from paper and/or cardboard. It sounds dumb described in mere words like this, but in practice, the treatment gives most levels a kind of charm that was missing from Isaac’s top-down twin-stick shooter. Continue reading
All right, so this is not a review because Dreamgate is still currently in early access. As such, many or all details I share with y’all might change before the game goes gold and launches for real. But really, in this modern era of gaming, updates and patches post launch might radically change any game after it’s reviewes. Take Dead Cells for example. I gave that game glowing praise as an early access offering, and after going gold, the developers have continued to shit on the game with new unbalanced biomes and one-shot enemies that cater only to the hardcore crowd while telling those of us who supported them in early access that we can kindly go fuck ourselves for enjoying their product on a lowly casual level.
*Sighs* But I’m not bitter about it or anything.
Anywho, Dreamgate is a card game merged with a dungeon crawler. It’s similar to Slay the Spire, but offers more player classes, and boasts on their Steam page that there’s no mana or energy required to play cards. (I’ll be coming back to this selling point soon, because it’s the main reason I bought the game.) You start out with one passive skill and a tiny deck, and then you slowly collect more cards through winning battles and leveling up. Defeated enemies give XP, and each level-up offers up three new cards. Don’t like any of the new options? Hit Skip and hope for a better pull on the next level-up or dungeon room victory. (Though it should be mentioned that certain low-level rooms don’t drop cards, so it’s entirely possible to win four and five battles for no reward.) Continue reading
Oh, my, Gawd, y’all. It feels like I have been playing this game forever. Steam says I’ve played 200 hours to reach the end, but in my mind, it feels so, so much longer. It isn’t because the game sucks or looks bad. Let me be clear, it just feels like an eternity since I first started up my first run through Borderlands 3 because there’s so much packed into this package. That should come across as a ringing endorsement, and yet here I am, feeling fatigued and a little sick of having too much to do.
I had to wait for the game to come to Steam, as Epic’s storefront is a bit meh, even if they keep giving out nice free games to try and entice me over. Steam’s interface is still shit, bit Epic is even more shit, so I had to be patient. In the meantime, I read all kinds of middling reviews about how Borderlands 3 just wasn’t that good, and I worried that after all this time, it wouldn’t be worth the wait.
So now I’ve had the chance to play it, and what is my own verdict? Well…I mean, it’s good, but it’s just so fucking long. Continue reading
20XX was added to my Want To Play list right after I saw the first trailers for it. Basically it can be summed up as “Mega Man, but roguelite.” I’d just completed Mega Man X on my Vita for the first time, and I was ready for something else to fill that platforming action void.
But then a lot of other games caught my attention, and it wasn’t until a random YouTube hiccup brought the game back to my attention that I tried it out. Now I’m deeply conflicted about how to review this. In short doses, it’s great, scratching that old school itch with just the right level of challenge and action. But it doesn’t take long to notice there’s not enough variety of environments or bosses to keep this from getting stale quickly.
In classic Mega Man style, the story casts you as Nina the good robot versus a squadron of evil robots and their minions. You defeat robot bosses and can choose to take their powers. But as an added twist, you might opt to get some extra currency instead, or you might select an extra augmentation to help beef up your robot’s health, energy, or their basic attacks. Continue reading
These days, no game is a static object, with updates and patches optimizing or fixing different features, or overhauling the gameplay in radical ways. Because of this, a review written at the launch of a game might not apply a year down the road. Old complaints or praise might need to be readdressed as a result of tweaks or changes.
This is most certainly the case with Dead Cells, a game I initially reviewed positively, but which has lost a lot of enjoyment with each new update since it has come out of early access. What started out as a fun platformer suitable for all levels of gamer has now catered itself almost exclusively to the hardcore fans while abandoning everyone else.
During early access, it was clear that certain weapons and skills were just preferable. For instance, the Sinew Slicer and Double Arrow Trap both had short cooldowns and a steady rate of fire, making them damned handy in every boss fight. Grenades, on the other hand, had crap damage and a ridiculously long cooldown rate. To counter this kind of dependence, the game makers nerfed the useful traps and put a limit of only one trap of any kind. Sounds good in theory, except the grenades are still garbage and have a stupidly long cooldown, so they still aren’t an option. Continue reading
In theory, Slay the Spire should be a perfect game for me. It’s a rogue-like card game climbing three randomly generated towers to battle monsters and bosses with one of four unique protagonists. In practice, however, my enjoyment of the game quickly evaporated because it crosses off every checkbox of bad indie rogue-like design: dully repetitive opening levels, a lack of enemy diversity, a stingy in-game economy combined with overpriced shops, and a slew of items meant specifically to fuck you over, and over, and over again.
Let’s start with the initial positives. You start playing as The Ironclad, a typical video game warrior carrying a giant orcish longsword, armed with a deck of the most basic stuff. You can lay out a Defend card to block five damage for one energy (out of three, though later cards and items may grant you addition energy units per turn), Strike for one, or use a Bash card that consumes two energy and applies a Vulnerable status on the enemy, making the next attack cause more damage. At first, sorting out a strategy amounts to deciding how much damage you want to dish out versus how much health you want to lose. So you could deal more damage by not blocking at all, or cast two Defend cards and only take one or two lost health points while dealing 6 damage. But either way, you will be losing some health in every fight.
Beating each monster offers a reward of three cards to choose from, which—again, in theory—should help move you toward a better strategy than just tanking hits to trade blows. Some rooms have a merchant offering other cards for sell, as well as relics that grant buffs or debuffs for the duration of the run, and potions that usually grant an effect only for the current turn. (Some might give you a card that will last throughout the current fight, but will vanish before your next fight.) Beating the boss of the tower offers up a choice of three boss relics, most of which offer a benefit combined with a negative caveat. Continue reading
I’ve put this review off for some time, playing Swords of Ditto several times and waiting for a moment when it might finally click for me and become fun. Sadly, that never happened, and I mean sadly in that I wanted to like this game. It’s a riff on Zelda with cartoony graphics and a cute soundtrack, a randomly generated game world where your weapons are “toys.” (Some really don’t qualify as toys, like vinyl records, but whatever.) Beating the game begins to unlock more characters to play through the story with, each of which has some special stat or starting toy. On paper, it sounds like a good time.
In practice, it’s just not fun. It starts with a tutorial section involving the death of your character, the eponymous Sword of Ditto. A hundred years pass and a new Sword is awakened and told how to fight against Mormo, the evil witch who is bound to the land by a curse. This is fine the first time you play, but even on a second run, it becomes annoying. It doesn’t help that even if you unlock other characters, the first run is always the same.
Combat is similarly tedious until you can manage to retrieve one or both of the toys of legend present on the island. Since few enemies are stunned by your sword’s swing, combat is essentially swing, move back, step in to swing and move back. Higher difficulty levels don’t change enemy behavior, they just nerf the sword’s damage, drawing out every fight to unbearable slowness. Continue reading
Starting off with some full disclosure, I did not play any of Fortnite during the first season, and not because I’m antisocial or dreading playing multiplayer games with small children using open mikes. No, I didn’t play because I was afraid my crap internet connection would ruin the game for other players. Still, I kept up on the stories about the many map changing developments, and from a distance, it all seemed so intriguing to me. A shooting game with an elaborate story playing out within the game world, always changing like some great living chimeric island? Yes, this is most intriguing.
With the literal end of the first world, I decided I’d go ahead and download Fortnite and see what all the other gamers already knew about this new social giant. If the lag was horrid, I’d be able to let it go easily enough because, hey, it’s free. If it was as good as everyone said it was, maybe I might be able to stick around and enjoy this in-world storytelling firsthand.
I’ve now played about thirty hours, and I want to talk about it. I wouldn’t call this a review, and I don’t think you can really review something like this, a product that’s always evolving from one month to the next. All I can do is talk about the modes I’ve tried, and offer impressions on this short vertical slice. Continue reading